This year I have a goal to read 40 books. That feels a bit audacious, even though I know people who have a reading goal much higher even than that.
I started setting reading goals for myself a couple of years ago, when I realized I was hardly reading any more and I really really missed the act of really getting lost in a good book. I missed the intellectual workout. I missed the escape from my day to day life and the peek into lives far different than my own. I missed the practice of reading good writing and studying the craft of it, to make my own writing better. I just missed being a reader and I wanted to be a reader again.
Each year since then I’ve passed my goal, so I feel confident in sharing what I’ve learned about finding more time to read, so you, too, can read all the books you want to.
Make It Easy
To make your book the first thing you turn to, you have to make it really easy. Easier than picking up your phone and opening Facebook.
I love paper books. I really, really do. But I realized that if I wanted to read more, I was going to have to embrace other formats. I’ve tried eBooks on my iPhone (small, but very accessible) and my iPad (pretty good!). My partner uses a Kindle and he loves it.
I’ve also tried audio books, which I remember really enjoying when I had a long commute to work, but I can’t seem to make them work in my life right now. I know other moms who love audio books and listen to them while they walk or work around the house.
Experiment a bit to see what works for you. Even if all you do is start carrying a bigger bag so you can have your traditional book with you all the time, that’s great. Convenience is the key.
Find Gaps of Time
One of the great things about reading is that you can do it any time, anywhere (almost…). If you use an e-reader, you can even do it in the dark!
Once your reading material is convenient, you can fit it into pretty small gaps of time. While you are waiting in line at the carpool. While your kid is in a class (Does anyone else look forward to gym and ballet classes like I do?), or playing at the park. During the bedtime hour, if you keep your child company while they fall asleep.
You can listen to audio books while you cook dinner, while you drive, and while you exercise.
Small gaps add up – you might be surprise how quickly you can get through a book when you tuck it around all the edges of your life.
Give Something Up
If the gaps of time you’ve found aren’t enough, or you want the luxury of reading for longer stretches, you may need to give up something else to create those stretches. What do you spend time doing throughout your week? Try tracking your day in detail for a few days to see where your time goes. TV? Pinterest? Email? You may be surprised.
A number of years ago I turned off my cable account, which freed up a lot of time I was mindlessly spending in front of the TV watching shows I didn’t really care about. Check your time map against your priorities – are you putting your time on what you care about most? If not, make some adjustments.
Define And Track Your Reading Goal
The first year I decided to focus on reading as a priority, I set a goal of reading two books every month. That meant by the end of the year I would have read 24 books, which felt achievable, but still a challenge.
I tracked my progress by simply listing each title in an Evernote document as I finished it. I noticed that some months I’d finish only one book, and other months I’d read three or four. And I surprised myself by finishing the year with 26 books on my list.
I’ve long understood the value of setting a goal and writing it down. If you want to read more, say you are going to do it. Define what “more” means to you. Break it down – how many books each month or week to get to your goal? Then make it easy, find or free up some time, and begin. Keep track of your progress, pay attention to what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust as needed.
Be Willing To Quit A Book
One of the things I realized that first year is that when I’m reading something I’m not really enjoying, I read very slowly. And really, there are so many amazing books out there, do I want to waste my valuable time reading something I’m not enjoying? So I gave myself permission to quit a book.
That was easier said than done, because I felt bad – and still do! – doing it. Once I begin a book I feel committed. I’m not a quitter, really, anywhere in my life.
But really, there are places where being a quitter is a good thing, and we should all practice it a bit more. Reading a book you dislike is not a good use of your time. Put it down, start something else. The author will never know.
Do you have a reading goal this year? What’s the best book you’ve read recently? Share in the comments below!